How quickly a handy online app becomes a fixture in our increasingly web-oriented popular culture. One of the most popular: Wikipedia. But how reliable is the information one finds in Wikipedia? This is suddenly a hot topic, as discussed in the post Citing Wikipedia, discussing a New York Times story about the rising number of judicial opinions that include a citation to a Wikipedia entry. This makes some people nervous, but actual sampling of the info at Wikipedia suggests it is as reliable as what can be had from more traditional reference materials. And everyone loves Wikipedia because it is a linkable and immediately available resource giving pretty good information on almost any conceivable topic. If you want a full discussion, there's a second post at the same site giving links to posts at other sites that pick up the discussion. But I have a more personal way to assess Wikipedia's accuracy.
While I have never authored or edited anything on Wikipedia, DMI (this site) is now cited in at least two Wikipedia articles. In the main article on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, DMI is cited for the following sentence: "The Church receives most of its funding from tithes and fast offerings. About ten percent of its funding also comes from income on its investments and real estate holdings." The link, presently at footnote 73 (it shifts around a bit as the article is edited over time), is to my post LDS Revenues and Assets, written in 2004. In that post, I was summarizing information presented in one chapter of Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (HarperCollins, 2000, 1st edition), by Richard and Joan Ostling. The Wikipedia sentence accurately reflects the information in my post. Nice that I put page number references in that post, which I just used to check the data I cited from the book. Good news: I got it right, although my page reference was off by one page (now corrected to read page 115).
My second Wikipedia cite comes from the article on the John Birch Society ("JBS"). DMI, along with several other sources, is cited for the following rather messy sentence: "Anti-Jewish, racist, anti-Mormon, anti-Masonic, and religious groups criticized the group's acceptance of Jews, nonwhites, and Masons, the large number of Mormons in the Society (Ezra Taft Benson, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraged people to join it), and Welch's alleged feminist, ecumenical, and evolutionary ideas." The link, presently coded as footnote 9, is to my post A Spectre Haunting Mormonism, written in 2006. In that post I summarized information from Chapter 12 of Greg Prince's book David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (U of U Press, 2005).
Interestingly, my post does not expressly state the point for which the Wikipedia article presumably cites me, namely that Ezra Taft Benson encouraged people to join the John Birch Society. In fact, my post noted that Benson never actually took out formal membership with the Birch Society! On the other hand, my post did recount Benson's appearance at a dinner held in honor of JBS founder Robert Welch in 1963. Benson's remarks praising Welch at that dinner can reasonably be construed as favorable to the John Birch Society. But I don't think his attendance and his remarks can be fairly described as constituting encouragement for Mormons or for people in general to formally join the JBS. Maybe Benson did, either privately or publicly, actually encourage people to join JBS, but I don't believe you can fairly make that claim based on what I wrote in my post.
So maybe that helps you put Wikipedia information in the proper context. I'm no primary source. I never got an email requesting confirmation of the information cited in either article. But I'm cited twice. Of course, I am very careful to be accurate in what I quote and cite in my blog posts. I don't mind being quoted and cited (although it's nice if they don't exaggerate). I'm just not sure all bloggers are necessarily as careful as I try to be, especially on controversial topics like Mormonism.
Say, if you haven't seen it yet, go check out the sidebar full of links at the Wikipedia page on Mormonism. One amazing thing about Wikipedia is its ability to put together fairly balanced articles on controversial topics. I'd suggest you read a couple of entries on topics you are familiar with on that sidebar and gauge their content, tone, and balance for yourself.